When you’re in a line-up of television as thrilling and talked about as Shondaland’s “TGIT” on ABC it can be hard to stand out, especially as a supporting actor on a freshman drama. However, when it comes to “How to Get Away with Murder” Jack Falahee has not only emerged as a fan favorite but his performance as Connor Walsh has made headlines and stirred up controversy.
Why? Because Connor Walsh is a gay law student that uses his charisma and beautiful face to get whatever information he needs to win a case. Falahee’s convincing performance and compelling relationship with Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) have lead to a lot of questions about the actor’s real life sexual orientation.
Falahee addressed those questions in his recent interview with OUT Magazine where he says, “I don’t think answering who I’m sleeping with accomplishes anything other than quenching the thirst of curiosity. And moreover, it seems reductive.”
Falahee continues to question the general public needs to be aware of his sexual orientation, and why people are so fascinated with the actors instead of the characters they portray. “It’s been really interesting to be in the middle of the industry’s fascination with the individual, because I never thought about that growing up or when I was at acting school. No matter how I answer, someone will say, ‘No, that’s not true.’ We still live in this hetero-normative, patriarchal society that is intent on placing everything within these binaries. I really hope that — if not in my lifetime, my children’s lifetime — this won’t be a question, that we won’t need this.”
Undoubtedly Falahee’s refusal to answer the question will prompt those to speculate that he’s gay, or only fuel the desire to know for sure. He has a valid point though — why does it matter? Does Falahee have to be gay to give a convincing performance of a gay man in his twenties? Does being straight make him a better actor? In 2015 is it really necessary to let an actor’s own sexual orientation dictate how we see their portrayal of a character on television or in film?
The same fascination surrounded Darren Criss when he took on Blaine Anderson on “Glee.” Zachary Quinto has been asked on several occasions if his sexuality affects the characters he chooses or is offered. The curiosity seems natural, but modern culture has gotten to a point where we need to ask ourselves — why does it matter? Why is it important that Falahee is playing a gay complicated character? Why is the modifier necessary?
Connor’s manipulation skills, avoidance of emotional intimacy and heavy conscience should be front and center — not that he’s turning to another guy to deal with them. If Connor Walsh was sleeping with women on the regular no one would ask Falahee who he’s bringing home for the evening.
It’s not just a matter of politeness that requires the press and public to re-examine why these questions feel necessary. As television evolves to reflect the diverse world we live in and characters like Connor become more commonplace, the audience should stop defining them as other or separate. These characters aren’t novelties and neither are the actors that play them. Their private lives are not our concern and have no bearing on the legitimacy they bring the characters we curl up with every week.